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Focus on Forest Fires & Spread of Glacial Lakes

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SDC Foundation UDAAI Report for April 2024

Dehradun-based environmental action and advocacy group, Social Development for Communities (SDC) Foundation, has released its 19th monthly disaster, extreme weather events & accident report titled Uttarakhand Disaster & Accident Analysis Initiative (UDAAI) till date for April 2024. The April 2024 report mainly focuses on forest fires in Uttarakhand. Apart from this, ISRO’s study about the spread of glacial lakes in the Himalayan region and the death of 8 people in a vehicle accident in Betalghat area of Nainital district have also been included in the report. The UDAAI reports are based on media reports in respectable publications in English and Hindi newspapers, as well as news portals.

Forest fires in Uttarakhand

The UDAAI report for April 2024 mainly recorded forest fire incidents. Based on various reports published in the media regarding forest fires, it has been said that the incidents of forest fires have increased 3 times this year as compared to last year.

According to the report, NASA’s study has revealed that while there were 1850 incidents of fire in the forests of Uttarakhand in the months of March and April in 2023, 6295 incidents took place in March and April this year. The report says this is a big warning.

The report also gives district-wise details of forest fire incidents in the months of March and April last year and this year. According to the report, there were 299 incidents of forest fire in Almora district in these two months last year while there were 909 incidents in April and May 2024. In other hill districts in the Kumaon Region, in Bageshwar 75 last year and 224 this year, in Champawat 120 in 2023 and 1025 in 2024 and 213 in Pithoragarh last year and 615 this year have been reported in the similar period.

Similarly, in the hill districts in Garhwal, 31 in Rudraprayag last year in March and April, and 117 this year, 115 in Tehri last year and 380 this year, in Uttarkashi 40 incidents last year and 89 this year, in Chamoli 99 last year and 293 this year and in Pauri 378 last year and 742 this year have been reported in the similar period.

The plains districts of Uttarakhand like Dehradun reported 48 fire incidents last year in March and April in 2023 and 62 this year, 42 in Haridwar last year and 25 this year, 207 in Nainital last year and 1524 this year and in Udham Singh Nagar there were 183 incidents last year and 290 this year have been reported in the similar period.

District-wise data of forest fires for March-April

District            2023           2024

Almora             299             909

Bageshwar        75              224

Chamoli            99               293

Champawat     120             1025

Dehradun        48                  62

Pauri                 378               742

Haridwar         42                 25

Nainital            207              1524

Pithoragarh      213               615

Rudraprayag     31               117

Tehri                 115               380

US Nagar         183               290

Uttarkashi       40                89

Hundreds of glacial lakes expanding in Himalayas, reveals ISRO analysis

The UDAAI April report also included ISRO’s revelations about the spread of hundreds of glacial lakes in the Himalayas. According to the report, incidents like glacial lake explosions and resulting glacial lake outburst floods have become common in the Himalayas.

Long-term satellite imagery covering the Himalayas revealed that out of 2,431 glacial lakes larger than 10 hectares in area identified in 2016/2017, 676 glacial lakes have expanded significantly since 1984. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said that, of these 676 lakes, 130 are within India, of which 65, 7, and 58 lakes are located in the Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra river basins, respectively.

The report says that there is a danger of such lakes bursting, which can cause devastation due to floods in low-lying areas. According to the report, research conducted around the world has shown that glaciers across the world are continuously retreating and thinning.

8 died in road accident

The death of eight people, including seven Nepali workers, in the Betalghat area of Nainital district has been recorded in the UDAAI report. This incident took place on the night of April 8 in which the passenger vehicle fell into a 150 metre deep gorge. Two other people were injured in this incident.

The injured were taken to Community Health Centre, Betalghat. From there they were referred to a higher centre. Anish Ahmed, in-charge of Betalghat police station, said. As soon as the information was received, the police reached the spot and conducted a rescue operation with the help of nearby villagers. Due to darkness, it took two hours to remove the bodies of the dead and injured.

UDAAI Report, Uttarakhand and Disaster Management

Anoop Nautiyal emphasised the urgent need to strengthen Uttarakhand’s weak disaster management system and climate action frameworks. He expressed the hope that the monthly documentation of the Uttarakhand UDAAI monthly reports could be helpful for the state’s policymakers and other stakeholders.